The Little Things in Life, Chapters 1–3
Chapter One: Leather Jackets, Broken Pianos, and Lost Childhoods
Papers flew off the back of his bike as he rushed through the streets to the coffee shop.
The streets downtown flashed by as cars honked to signify their uneventful arrival.
It was just another hot Manhattan evening.
Thoughts like this raced through his head as he locked up the rusty bicycle, one of the last reminders of his childhood, now more than 5 years gone.
His phone buzzed with notifications from his friends, as usual.
The red of the leaves on the ground and in the crowded trees shone through the slight falling droplets that sank into the leather of his jacket.
“Wow,” said a voice. “Leather was a good choice. Really suits you, pal.”
He turned around.
A young man, not more than 23 years of age, was getting out of an expensive car.
The sun, which was just coming out from behind the clouds, glinted off of his woolen suit.
“What’s up, Tom?” he said as he took his briefcase out of the back of the car.
It was Johnny Cliffside, his longtime friend. Tom and Johnny had grown up in Vinegar Hill, one of the poorer neighborhoods of Brooklyn.
Tom grinned. “Not much, Johnny. That’s a nice choice for an Uber. How much did you pay for the trip?”
Johnny chuckled. “It’s mine, Tom. I paid about sixty-five thousand dollars for it. How’ve you been?”
It had been well over 5 years since their last meeting.
“You know Johnny, I never thought I’d see you again. I graduated last year, got a girlfriend, got my driver’s license, and best of all, I’ve got a well-paying job,” said Tom.
“No more failed finals, getting dumped by girls, or broken pianos.” He finished. Johnny smiled at the thought. It was bittersweet, really. He had gotten over all the obstacles of his childhood, but lost touch with his best friend.
“Where have you been for the past 5 years, man?” Johnny said as he patted Tom’s shoulder.
The smell of coffee and biscuits permeated the air as the the espresso machine hummed in the background.
“What can I get you, sir?” asked the barista, clearly tired by the seemingly endless day.
“Happy Summer Solstice. You look like you’ve had a long day,” said Johnny as he threw a twenty-dollar bill into the tips can. “I’ll have a caramel macchiato with whipped cream and a donut. What about you, Tom?”
“I’ll have a dark roast and some kettle corn.” Replied Tom.
“Kettle corn? Really man?” asked Johnny jokingly.
“Hey, it’s good to bring back the old years, right?” replied Tom, almost wistful.
Chapter Two: The Executives, Shop Windows, and Unread Emails
Ms. Elizabeth James Beecher gazed out her window in her California office.
The wind from the open door slid through her slicked back hair.
It really did pay to grow up in Silicon Valley.
Her dad had been an investor, a young upstart, buying into companies with his inherited war merchant profits. Through such profits, he pulled some strings and got her admitted into Stanford University, along with over five-hundred thousand dollars in the bank.
Forty-two unread emails sat in Ms. Beecher’s inbox, never to be seen again, as she stood up for a coffee break. She was a writer, but her dad’s assets gave her more than enough to sustain herself without a job.
Sometimes she wished for a chance to start from scratch; to make it back to the top without any help.
Elizabeth remembered her dad’s words: “I may not always be with you, but I’ll make sure someone will be.”
She smiled at her assistant, clearly fatigued by the longer than usual day, and declared the office “on break”. Dozens of employees flooded out the doors of the building, off to see their children after almost twelve hours of work.
The elated workers left but a mess of papers and a chuckling Elizabeth behind them. She headed out of the office, changed into more “casual” attire, and let down her hair.
Today was her day. It was time to live it as it came.
Hours were spent at the mall, shopping for things which she never knew existed. Seeing people she neglected to even think of. Feeling the true nature of a common woman unlike herself.
As the sun went down, Ms. Beecher wandered down Marina Boulevard, admiring each and every one of the street vendors selling toys to the children who constantly pleaded to their parents for such items.
She wished that it was her in the shoes of the child, begging her dad for the trinkets, but her entire childhood had been spent inside the 31st floor of her dad’s office, listening to the drone of an endless phone call with “the executives”.
Her so-called “friends” were usually out on the streets below, playing with some ball they found under a car.
“Sometimes the top really can be lonely.” Elizabeth almost said out loud. She stared at the shining tip of her building. As her eyes slowly moved upward, she could have sworn she saw her dad in the stars, winking at her.
Chapter Three: Kettle Corn, Flashing Lights, and an Addict’s Cigarette
8 Years Ago…
Johnny stood outside Apartment number 316, 360 Furman Street, his home.
A heavy rain blanketed the city in droplets of spray. Taxis ran through the streets, kicking up mud and the remains of some addict’s cigarette. The strong smell of alcohol filled the air.
Tears rolled down Johnny’s eyes. Today was his birthday, but never was his birthday a pinnacle of the year like most other kids. Today was, in fact, the all time low. It was the day his mother died, just 2 years prior.
Everything had seemed so promising. He had a set career path in his mother’s office, a steady income, a great family, and all the things people look for. All he needed was the money.
Everything was going swimmingly until the accident.
It was a 4-car crash. The biggest in the neighborhood. His mom’s car was sandwiched.
By the time Johnny arrived, there wasn’t much left to see. He dropped down to his knees and cried. It was the first time in years that he really, truly cried.
Paramedics and friends surrounded him. He ignored them. What could they do? She was gone.
He trudged to a corner store, just starting to close to help out the survivors.
“That’s not gonna get you very far, kid,” said the clerk to Johnny’s mere one dollar and fifty-two cents. “Hang on, I think I have something that may at least quench your hunger for now.” He pulled out a small box of kettle corn. And Johnny ate the kettle corn. It was an escape.
It wasn’t the fact that she was gone that troubled Johnny so much, it was the uncertainty of his future. And as those blinding red and yellow lights and the blaring siren from the ambulance scarred his mind forever, he realized that life wasn’t just going to get him to the top. There would always be setbacks, problems, and losses.
A few hours later…
“Jeez, what happened to loving my mom? Why didn’t her passing bother me? All I’ve done since is plan for the future. What have I become?” Johnny thought out loud. Suddenly the notion became clear: the system he followed for so long had changed him.
“It is time to try something new.”, he thought as he finished the kettle corn, putting it on his desk as a memory.